El Nino could be one of strongest on record

GENEVA • The current El Nino weather phenomenon is expected to peak between next month and January, and could turn into one of the strongest on record, experts from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said.

Climate models and experts suggest surface waters in the east-central Pacific Ocean are likely to be more than 2 degrees hotter than average, potentially making this El Nino one of the strongest ever.

Typically, warm air above the eastern Pacific causes increased precipitation over the west coast of South America and dry conditions over the Australia/Indonesia archipelago and South-east Asia, said Mr Maxx Dilley, director of the WMO's Climate Prediction and Adaptation Branch.

El Nino can also bring higher rainfall to the Horn of Africa, but causes drier conditions in southern Africa.

Climate scientists are better prepared, with prediction models and data on El Nino patterns, but its impact on the northern hemisphere is hard to forecast because there is also an Arctic warming effect at work on the Atlantic jetstream current.

Mr David Carlson, the director of the World Climate Research Programme, said on Tuesday: "We don't know what will happen. Will the two patterns reinforce each other? Will they cancel each other?"

This El Nino could also be followed abruptly by a cooling La Nina, which, along with the advance of global warming, adds to the uncertainty, he said.But he added that it is still unclear how global warming affects El Nino events.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2015, with the headline 'El Nino could be one of strongest on record'. Print Edition | Subscribe